Cosplayers take the stage in tape and cardboard

Russians have taken the activity of costume play and made it more about play, and less about the costume.

Photographs by Maria Chadova, Oxana Mokrushina, Victoria Maximova, Yekaterina Popova, Alexander Saburov

Halloween isn’t a particularly big holiday in Russia, but fans of costume play need no excuse to dress up.

The first Russian festival of cosplay, whose participants create elaborate costumes based on a favorite character from a book, movie, videogame or comic, took place in 2000, in the central Russian city of Voronezh, about 300 miles south of Moscow.

About 10 people showed up in homemade costumes.

Artyom Tolstobrov, who organizes the Voronezh event, said that the festival has evolved significantly since those early days. “Cosplay shows appeared only in 2002- before that we limited ourselves to flat-screen mass movie screenings.”

Today cosplay festivals are held in practically all major cities, and up to 10 times a year in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Unlike foreign cosplayers, in Russia, cosplay is regarded as a type of stand-up comedy with certain elements of masquerade, which is why the play is more important than the costume itself.

Maria Grigoryeva, who often participates in the events, says that she just really enjoys the feeling of being on stage, playing a role: “It's an unusual shake-up for your body, the feeling of an uplift- it's not often that you feel this in ordinary life,” said Grigoryeva.

Thousands of communities in the Russian Internet are ready to help a beginner design a unique futuristic masterpiece with their own hands, even if it involves L.E.D. lights, forging armor and or putting together an exoskeleton.

The most difficult thing is to find the required material, said Mari Chadova.

“Any cosplayer should try visiting construction stores: linoleum, sealant, water hoses, a mixer tap and a pressure sensor can be found there. Besides that a housewares store can be helpful: thermo napkins, a bamboo rug, etc. You often find material in the most random places, and they are usually meant for completely different activities,” Chadova said.

Ekaterina Popova from Voronezh has created a lot of successful projects: She has played the ogre version of Fiona from “Shrek” and Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.”

“I pick cosplay heroes only after taking my figure into account,” Popova said. “But the most important is what you feel inside. I always say no to really mean characters.”

Although serious cosplayers who are active in the community say the the desire to create bigger and better costumes increases every year, a Russian cosplayer wouldn't be a Russian cosplayer if he didn't finish everything at the last minute.

“There is a story that scares all newbie cosplayers,” began Vasilisa Lisa.

“There is a crafter in enormous and really cool plate armor. The only thing is, they're made out of cardboard are held together with reversible scotch tape. So he's walking down the hall, there is a bunch of people all around him - he's walking really carefully, trying not to touch anybody. And all of a sudden a fellow cosplayer girl walks right into him and brushes against his armor with her shoulder, but on accident! He was so mad, you could have heard his cursing  all the way down in the auditorium!”

And even if the costumes are perfect, there is always something going wrong going on stage. Sometimes the wrong song goes on, or the microphone won't work properly, or somebody's costume starts falling apart.

Nevertheless, Russian cosplayers don't see these technical aspects as a serious problem. They are happy to start dancing to a completely different song, or act as if the ruined costume is part of the scenario.

Russian cosplayers make real art out of almost nothing – just don’t look too close. In Russian cosplay, charisma and humor are most important than the perfect costume.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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